Public defender Michael Hanley made prosecutors snap upright at a request during Monday’s proceedings in the trial of Pierre Haobsh. Mr. Hanley wanted a witness to unseal the suspected murder weapon and attempt to attach it to a hex nut of an apparent homemade silencer.
Prosecutor Hilary Dozer immediately objected, saying he didn’t want evidence manipulated.
“This may be an ‘If the glove don’t fit, you must acquit’ moment, but I’m not comfortable,” he said.
Judge Brian Hill disagreed with conducting “an experiment in open court,” so Mr. Hanley had the witness David Barber, assistant lab director of the California Department of Justice’s Santa Barbara lab, make a visual assessment.
Mr. Barber determined the length of the hex nut and the muzzle of the gun, a Ruger 22/45 Lite, were identical. The threading were both fine and were similar if not a match, he said.
The gun was recovered in a bag inside the wheel well of Mr. Haobsh’s car. Two 10-round magazines, bullets matching those found at the crime scene and what appears to be a homemade silencer or suppressor were stored with the Ruger semi-automatic pistol.
Mr. Barber inspected the evidence he testified looked like a homemade silencer or suppressor, a device that attaches to the muzzle of a gun to slowly release the ammunition’s gases.
Mr. Barber didn’t test the pipe’s ability as a suppressor for two reasons: he first needed to determine if ammunition had been fired inside it, and the device didn’t look safe.
He looked inside, and the device’s internal tube wasn’t completely parallel to the external pipe. He determined a bullet could become trapped inside.
He cut open the copper pipe to expose all the components: a slotted inside tube, rusty steel wool, a rubber-like material, hex couplings and the hex nut. He said the device’s design was consistent with a silencer.
He never attempted to screw the hex nut, which was located at one end of the silencer, onto the gun. So, Mr. Hanley wondered if it even fit.
Judge Hill asked, considering other evidence, why it mattered.
Mr. Hanley replied that the coroner reported during the preliminary hearing that Emily, Dr. Han’s daughter, was killed by a “contact shot.” A lack of gunpowder around the wound indicated a silencer must’ve been used.
Mr. Barber testified the silencer found in Mr. Haobsh’s trunk must’ve been used because it sustained damage from the inside out. The silencer’s tube protrudes near the point the device would be attached to the gun, and there is a hole with tears in the rubber at the far end.
He discovered bullet fragments with distinctive characteristics like those found at the crime scene in the steel wool. Another lab confirmed the pieces as bullet fragments.
Another gun was recovered from Mr. Haobsh’s vehicle, a 9mm glock. Mr. Barber said the silencer would not fit that size ammunition.
He also testified that cartridges found at the Han home were identifiable to the Ruger gun.
Three such shell casings were collected from the plastic that surrounded Jennie Yu’s body.
Mr. Barber looked at “class characteristics” that any Ruger 22/45 Lite would leave on the casings. Then, he magnified the casings and compared them against casings he shot from the gun.
He found “excellent agreement” of consecutive matching striae, parallel strokes the gun leaves that are as unique as a serial number.
Detectives also sent Mr. Barber a 22-caliber cartridge found in a cooler in the passenger seat of Mr. Haobsh’s car. The cartridge was discovered alongside a 9mm bullet.
The cartridge showed the matching striae to the rounds fired at the lab, but it had additional marks consistent with a wire impression. Mr. Barber still identified that casing to Mr. Haobsh’s Ruger 22/45 Lite.
Mr. Barber studied a bullet found in Dr. Han’s pillow but didn’t find individual characteristics that could make a distinct identification.
He found marks that identify Mr. Haobsh’s 22-caliber Ruger or any 22-caliber Ruger “machined from the same tool within a similar amount of wear.”
Mr. Dozer showed evidence that Mr. Haobsh purchased the following tools: a variable speed drill, small angle grinder, torch, step drill bit, scale, carbide tip scribe, silver solder and metal blade for an angle grinder.
Mr. Barber said the tools could make the silencer he inspected, saying some were “ideal” for certain components.
Mr. Barber was dismissed at the end of the day. The trial will resume Friday morning.